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5 months ago

When Heads Roll

I’m not a huge football fan, but I’m mildly interested and slightly bemused by the life of a football manager and how it seems to be an extreme version of what happens in business.

You’ll no doubt have heard the recent story about Claudio Ranieri being fired from Leicester City recently. While I can’t claim to know all the details I do find it very strange how someone can take a club from nowhere to winning the Championship in one season (which most thought pretty much impossible by the way) only to be fired nine months later. Most importantly he seemed to inspire that rare trait of solid teamwork combined with a collective belief that anything is possible. Perfect ingredients for success, so you would think.

Maybe it’s just me but where does that leave the motivation of any future manager in that situation? Surely the message we they giving is make it look good in the short term or else. Forget building for the future, forget creating the culture that will see repeated successes, sustainable growth and attract real talent.

Sound familiar? How many times have you seen a hard push to the next set of financial results, maybe at the expense of the longer-term health of the business. I’ve certainly seen some very crazy decisions resulting from that short-term mindset. Maybe you have too.

Where was the leadership in all of this? It certainly didn’t seem to be with the person who fired Claudio. What about the alternative of getting everyone, including the team and the manager around the table to understand what is not working and then working together on the turnaround plan. While Claudio may be a useful scapegoat I take some convincing that he was the real problem, especially given his incredible success the previous season.

The tough option is actually taking personal responsibility and supporting those around and below you while inspiring them to find ways to improve the situation.

We see this in business all too often, simply because it is perceived as the easy option for the person doing the firing. It takes the heat off them and they are often seen as decisive and tough. The tough option is actually taking personal responsibility and supporting those around and below you while inspiring them to find ways to improve the situation. The tough option is managing the criticism levelled at you while allowing your team the space to find the answer…often not a quick fix, but a slow and messy process with lots of try and fail bits in the middle.

Alternatively you could take the path chosen by Leicester City: kill the golden goose and go and try to find another one…only to find that the same thing will happen again and again.